Archive | Current River RSS feed for this section

Float #153 – #155: Current River

29 Dec

Pulltite to Two Rivers

F153_Current

Current River
Shannon County, Missouri
Friday, September 29 – Sunday, October 1, 2017
27 Miles
Temperature: Friday 82˚/50˚, Saturday 82˚/51˚, Sunday 81˚/48˚
Wind: Friday NE at 4mph, Saturday ENE at 6mph, Sunday ESE at 7mph
Water Level: 1.15 at Akers gage

DW and I managed to slip away for a weekend on the Current River for our wedding anniversary. We used to do a 4 or 5 day float on the Current for our anniversary every year, but we are much busier with work these days and rarely have time for a leisurely trip of that length. We took Friday off work, loaded up the canoe, my kayak, and our dog Ocoee and drove down to Two Rivers for our boat shuttle. Two Rivers outfitter has changed quite a bit since the big flood back in May. Their building was completely gone and they were operating out of an RV that they had been living in all summer. The people at the outfitter were friendly as usual and were upbeat and positive about rebuilding and getting things back to normal over the following year. We loaded our boats and gear in their van and were dropped off at Pulltite to start our trip a little before noon. The weather that weekend was in the low 80s, warm enough during the day but a bit chilly at night, but not really hot enough to do much swimming in the cold water of the Current.

Current River

Pulltite spring

Current River

Fire Hydrant spring

Current River

Current River

DW preps camp

We spent the afternoon leisurely drifting down the river and casually casting out a fishing line. We didn’t make too many miles the first day as we were occupied with relaxing and the peace that comes with having nowhere to be and all day to get there. We scouted for camping spots in the late afternoon and found a decent one a couple hours before sunset. DW gathered firewood while I set up the tent and Ocoee napped on the gravel bar. That dog gets really worn out sitting in a canoe doing nothing all day!

Current River

Sinking Creek confluence

Current River

Ocoee gets a bath

Current River

Sunset on the river

The second day on the river was much the same as the first. We stopped for lunch at the big gravel bar on Sinking Creek. Ocoee got a much needed bath in the river, which he was thrilled about. DW and I spent about an hour laying in the sun and drifting in and out of sleep. We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves! After we passed Round Spring we began to look for a campsite and found a pretty good one on a large gravel bar with lots of firewood. We had a wonderful meal of camp burritos and watched the sun set over the river. It was one of the best sunsets I’ve seen on the river in a while!

Current River

Current River

Mink

Current River

The next day we had to hoof it, because we spent the first two days drifting along and not getting very far. I think we had 16 or 17 miles to do on Sunday! Fortunately we are both good paddlers accustomed to long trips. We paddled for a couple hours straight and managed to knock out the majority of the remaining miles. The fall colors were just getting started and we saw the usual array of waterfowl, deer, turtles, an eagle, and a mink. The mink was running along the bank and kept stopping to peek at us from behind the branches. I managed to get a photo of his minky little face.

We got off the river by early evening and did the 2 hour drive home to fall asleep and get back to work the next day. I’m glad we were able to get away for a couple days with just the two of us and the river. This was the last float trip we did in 2017. DW had shoulder surgery in late October to fix a few years worth of injuries from multiple dislocations. He was in a sling for a little over a month and is still in physical therapy trying to get back in shape before spring. Until then, I will have to paddle him down the river in the canoe!

Critter Count: Hawks, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, 1 Bald Eagle, Deer, 1 Mink

Advertisements

Float #78: Current River

19 Jul

Baptist Camp to Cedar Grove

F78_Current

Current River
Dent County, Missouri
Friday, July 12
8 Miles

This past weekend we camped near Dillard Mill, east of Salem, with the MVOR caving group. This was a reschedule of the April event that was flooded out. We were blessed with pleasant weather for July, not too hot and no rain. On Friday morning we headed down to the campground, set up our tent and prepared our gear for floating. Our friend Greg met us at the campground. Our camp neighbor, Derrick, had no plans for the day so we invited him to come floating with us since we brought extra boats. He jumped at the chance, so we threw another boat on top of the car and drove down to the Current River. The Current is about an hour drive from where we were camped, but the float was worth the drive. DW and I have never floated above Cedar Grove, so we were eager to get this section under our belts. We dropped Greg’s car at Cedar Grove and drove the short shuttle to Baptist Camp. As we unloaded our gear a large swarm of tube floaters launched into the stream. We would encounter them several times throughout our trip and practiced our turning and dodging skills around them.

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

There was just enough water on this section to float easily without scraping or hitting any rocks. A few inches lower and it would have drug a little in some spots. The water was crystal clear and deliciously cold. Almost as cold as spring water and just what I needed on a July day. The Current is so small and creek-like on this upper portion and it was fun to compare it to the float we did last fall on the lower section from Van Buren to Doniphan. Despite the small size of the river it still moved at a good pace. I would love to do this section in high water. That would be a lot of fun! If only the park service didn’t close the river every time it started to get exciting (dang safety precautions).

Current River

Our camp neighbor, Derrick

Current River

Current River

I spent most of the float looking down into the water at all the beautiful fish. There are a lot of smallmouth bass and rainbow trout in this section. We talked to a few fisherman, who said the fish were skittish today and weren’t biting much. This section is just downstream of Montauk State Park, one of Missouri’s trout parks, so this part of the Current is a blue ribbon trout area, which means you can only keep one 18″ trout per day. I’ve never caught a trout that large outside of the stocked trout parks, but a girl can dream.

We passed a few small bluffs and gravel bars that would be excellent for camping. There aren’t any landmarks on this section besides a creek that enters on your right, about 3.5 miles into the trip.

Current River

Current River

Approaching Cedar Grove bridge

All too soon we reached Cedar Grove and our trip was over. DW and Derrick left to run the shuttle while Greg and I made small talk with some people chilling in the river. They were from Desoto, which is about half and hour from where I live. That seems to be a running theme this year, meeting people on the river who live close to me! DW soon arrived with the Subaru and we loaded the boats. People were asking how we were going to fit 4 kayaks on the car. The answer is creative stacking! We have put 5 on top before, but that requires the assistance of a step stool or someone well over 6 feet tall. We all agreed that it was a really nice trip and headed back to camp to enjoy dinner and a night around the bonfire. The next day we would scrape ourselves down the upper Huzzah, a test in portaging skills that not everybody passed.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Turtles, Ducks

Float #71 – 72: Current River

31 May

Pulltite to Two Rivers

F71_Current

Current River
Shannon County, Missouri
Saturday, May 18 – Sunday, May 19
26 miles

Our first overnight float trip of this year was a fun St. Louis Adventure Group trip on the Current River. We met up with the group at Two Rivers campground on Friday night, sat around the fire, ate some food and got to know everyone. On Saturday morning we loaded our boats and gear on the bus and headed up to Pulltite access. It has been a long time since I’ve ridden a school bus on curvy roads and my stomach was not amused! Once we arrived I felt better and we all loaded up our boats for the trip. Most people had kayaks. DW took the canoe so we could pack more gear and overnight in comfort. A roomy tent and an air mattress are 4 star accommodations on the river bank! The day started out cloudy, but not too chilly. This is the first float of the year that has been warm enough for a swimsuit and dry enough to put the rain gear away.

Current River

Pulltite access

Current River

Pulltite spring branch

Current River

DW takes a cold dip

Current River

Right around the bend from Pulltite access is Pulltite spring. If you park your boat at the mouth of the spring branch there is a trail leading up to the spring and an old cabin. We’ve been here so many times that we didn’t stop on this trip, but there are photos of the spring in some of my previous Current River posts. Just downstream of Pulltite spring is Fire Hydrant spring, a small spring that gushes out of the rocks. It is easily missed if you’re not looking for it. DW and I quickly fell behind the group, as we usually do. We were busy fishing and lazing along instead of paddling. We only caught up to the group once at lunch and then again at camp. I like to spend as much of the day as possible on the river and if we paddle we’re likely to finish the whole trip in one day!

Current River

Current River

Sinking Creek

Current River

Hwy. 19 bridge at Round Spring

Current River

Just above Round Spring is Sinking Creek. This is a popular area for swimming and has a large gravel bar. There is a small campground here too, but it gets very busy on the weekends. Soon we passed Round Spring, a large campground, spring and river access. The water is a little higher than I’ve seen in recent years and one of the boat launch areas was mostly submerged. Once you get past Round Spring the horsepower limit for john boats goes from 25 to 40, so there are a lot more john boats on this section of river. After Round Spring the group started looking for campsites. There are a number of gravel bars past Round Spring, but not many of them are big enough for a large group of people. The gravel bars are also starting to get overgrown with willow and sycamore trees. Not a bad thing for erosion control, but it makes finding a clear spot for camping a little more difficult. We finally caught up to the group on a patchy gravel bar they were considering for camp. A john boater told us there was a much nicer, larger gravel bar about a mile downriver. Half of us decided to paddle on to find it. The other half had already unloaded some of their gear and decided to stay there for the night. We did find the bigger gravel bar. It was across from a long, low bluff and fairly clear of vegetation, much nicer than the original spot!

Current River

Current River

Our campsite

Current River

Current River

Current River

We spent an enjoyable evening around the campfire, swapping stories and cooking dinner. DW and I had beef burritos; so tasty after a day on the water! One couple brought their black lab, Daisy, along in their canoe. We enjoyed hanging out with her as it brought back good memories of canoe trips with our black lab, Zoe, who passed away last summer. Some people were anxious about raccoons coming into camp and messing with stuff. I’ve never encountered a raccoon while camping on a gravel bar, only in campgrounds. However, we did tell them to watch out for armadillos. Not because they are dangerous, just because they are very loud and will startle you. If it sounds like there is a bear coming out of the woods, it is most likely an armadillo poking around.

The next morning dawned cloudy yet again, but it was nice and warm. The fog stayed on the river until nearly 11am. It was good fishing in the morning. DW caught two 10 inch smallmouth and I caught one little one and almost caught a bigger one, but he jumped off the hook.

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Once the fog burned off and the sky cleared the day warmed up quickly. It was warm enough for me to swim and that was really nice! As the day wore on we grew bored with fishing and spent the day drifting downstream, mostly backwards as the wind picked up a bit and spun our boats around. In the afternoon the river got busier as many locals put their john boats on the river after church on Sundays. I was reminded why I usually don’t float the Current in the summer as it only gets more crowded into August.

Current River

Current River

Jacks Fork confluence

Current River

Two Rivers

Around 4pm we rounded the bend and saw Two Rivers campground in the distance. Our trip was over too soon! Since DW and I usually spend at least 3 days on overnight trips it was a little disappointing to be finished already. Overall it was an excellent float with a lot of fun people and a great kick-off to the summer season.

Critter Count: Herons, Kingfishers, turtles, 2 Softshell turtles, 2 mink

Float #55 – 57: Current River

19 Oct

Van Buren to Doniphan

Current River
Carter and Ripley Counties, Missouri
Friday, September 28 – Sunday, September 30
40 miles

DW and I like to do a multi-day float trip every year for our anniversary. This year we decided to float a stretch of the Current that we have never done before. The lower Current river doesn’t get as much traffic for paddlers, though I have heard it can be busy with motorboats in the summer. This stretch of river isn’t as scenic as the upper Current, but we saw plenty of wildlife and the water was just as clear and beautiful as ever.

We started our trip in Van Buren. DW has a family friend that owns a beautiful house on a slough of the river just outside town. We drove down Thursday afternoon and spent the night with them. We were treated to good company and some delicious venison burgers! The next morning we awoke early, packed our boats and carried them down to the slough. We paddled down the slough and onto the river. As soon as we hit the main river channel it started to rain. It continued to rain for the next four and a half hours! I am not usually fazed by a little rain on a float trip, but four hours of downpour were not pleasant. The skies kept teasing. The rain would lighten to a drizzle for a few minutes and then it would come down in a torrent for another half hour. DW finally got out his phone to check the radar. It turns out the only patch of precipitation in 3 counties was centered right over us and it wasn’t moving much faster than we were. I discovered that my rain jacket is really a drizzle jacket. After a couple hours of rain it soaked right through. Somehow rain managed to find its way into my kayak skirt and down my back. We kept paddling through it all to stay warm and not delay our progress. We passed Big Spring during one of the heavier downpours, so I was not able to take any photos. DW saw a river otter in the spring. I only saw the bubbles as he dove under.

Putting in at the slough

Current River

Getting on the river just before the rain

Current River

Current River

Gravel bar clothes drying

Eventually the rain stopped, but the sky never cleared. We stopped on a gravel bar and took off our soaked clothing. DW turned on some music and an impromptu clothes drying dance party ensued. After we warmed up we packed away our wet gear and continued downriver.

Around 3:30pm we came to a couple of campgrounds and accesses that led me to believe we had reached our stopping point for the day. I discovered the next day that we were about 5 miles short. The map for this section of river is not up to date or isn’t as detailed as it should be. We passed many landmarks that weren’t on the map at all. It doesn’t help that the NFS has almost no signage naming any of the campgrounds and accesses along the way. We stopped at many access points only to discover the message board had no details whatsoever that would let you know what access you were at. I’m guessing this section of river just isn’t set up for paddlers.

We pulled over at a flat gravel bar and set up camp. It was so early that we took a short nap before starting a fire and settling in for the evening. As dark fell we roasted potatoes and onions in the fire and ate them with bratwurst, one of my favorite camp meals. The next morning dawned bright and sunny. We dried the heavy dew from our tent, packed our boats and started fishing down the river. Of course there was a big, beautiful gravel bar right around the bend that was much nicer than where we had camped!

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Choppy waters

We spent most of the morning fishing. We both caught a few smallmouth bass. DW caught one that was a keeper, but he released it. I caught a couple 10-12 inch bass and lost quite a few lures on trees and rocks! A couple hours into our day we passed the access that we were supposed to stop at the day before. It was the only one that was labeled on the shore and on the map! We made up the time in the afternoon so it was no big deal. We saw a couple of people fishing in john boats, but no paddlers. This trip was one of the most solitary we’ve been on. We stopped at a NFS campground for lunch. I assume it was Gooseneck access, but there was no signage. We passed a cave on the river bank which was also not on the map, so I don’t know the name of it. Shortly after the cave I spotted a group of four river otters eating their lunch. The were hanging out on a tangle of trees in the water eating fish and playing around. They didn’t see me at first, but as soon as I reached for the camera they dove under. I was really close to them and probably could have reached one with my paddle! I’ve never been that close to otters before, so it was a cool experience.

Current River

A cave on the river

Current River

Current River

Current River

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out where we were. Eventually we came across some people at an access and asked them. The access didn’t have a name, but they told us what road it was on and we were able to locate it on the map. A couple of hours later we passed out of the Scenic River area and began to see cabins and houses along the banks. We stopped at a nice, flat gravel bar that had a pile of dead wood for our evening fire and stopped there for the night. It’s so nice to have a fire again after the long drought and fire ban of the summer. This weekend was the harvest moon and it rose full and bright over the river. We saw a lunar halo as well. There were a handful of gigging boats out that night and we watched them go up and down the river and cheered them on when they gigged a fish.

The next day was overcast and gloomy, but it didn’t rain. We spent most of our time fishing but only caught a couple of fish. We saw a pair of bald eagles on the river. They kept flying ahead of us so I couldn’t get a photo. I also saw a deer on the riverbank. As we got closer to Doniphan the riverbank became clogged with houses. There aren’t quite as many fancy houses near Doniphan as there are in Van Buren, but there were plenty of newly constructed mega-cabins.

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Current River

Hwy. 160 bridge

Current River

Doniphan access

We arrived at our take-out in the early afternoon, packed up our gear and headed home. It was a good trip, despite the rain and it was fun to do a new section of river. This was the last big float of the year. We will probably do several day trips and short floats near home before winter sets in.

Critter Count: Turtles, Herons, Ducks, Hawks, Osprey, 2 Bald Eagles, 5 River Otters, 1 Deer

Bonus Prize: 1 child-size foam paddle board

Float #49 – 51: Current River

31 Aug

Powder Mill to Big Spring

Current River
Shannon & Carter Counties, Missouri
Friday, August 17 – Sunday, August 19
30 miles

I had been looking forward to this float for weeks and it did not disappoint. This section of the Current is one of my favorites for the beauty of the landscape, the lack of other boaters and the excellent fishing. Two of our best friends who used to live in Missouri joined us for this trip. Jake drove up from Nashville and Aaron flew in from NYC. On Friday morning we loaded the car with 3 kayaks, the canoe and lots of dry bags. We met up at Powder Mill access (also known as Owl’s Bend). Jake and DW ran the shuttle down to Van Buren while Aaron and I sorted gear, packed boats and readied the fishing poles. We set off sometime after noon planning to camp somewhere before Log Yard access. It’s a good thing DW got his practice with the loaded canoe last weekend because there was about 3 times as much gear to haul for this trip. This section of river has almost no obstacles so the only difficulties with the canoe are the wind and trying to paddle all that weight into the perfect fishing hole.

Current River, Powder Mill

Jake, Aaron, DW and the Roo

Current River, Blue Spring

Blue Spring

Current River, Blue Spring

The deep, cerulean water of Blue Spring

Current River, Blue Spring

Blue Spring from the overlook

Current River

Current River

Bald Eagle

Current River

DW and Jake show off their fish

Our first stop was Blue Spring, about 6/10 of a mile downriver from Powder Mill. Blue Spring is a beautiful spring of an impossibly blue color. There are many springs called Blue Spring in Missouri, but this one embodies the name the most successfully. You could stare down into the never-ending, cerulean depth of crystal clear water for ages. Blue Spring can also be reached by two trailheads; one off of Hwy. 110 and another from Powder Mill campground. There is a small lookout at the top of the bluff overlooking the spring hole and branch. We spent some time there marveling at the water and then headed back to the boats. DW and I swam in the confluence of the spring and the river, yelping when we swam through the icy spring waters that were mixing into the river channel. This weekend wasn’t as chilly as the previous weekend on the Eleven Point and the Current’s waters aren’t quite as cold, so we were able to do more swimming.

We stopped at a gravel bar just around the corner from Robert’s Field access. There was a large bluff across from the gravel bar, which is almost always a good fishing spot. While scanning the bluff I spotted a Bald Eagle watching us from a tree high up on the bluff. He hung out for a little bit and then flew up the valley. We all fished the hole under the bluff for a while. Jake and DW both caught some nice small mouth bass. They were legal length to keep, but just barely, so they released the fish back into the river.

Current River

A big Northern Water snake suns on a rock

Current River

Current River

Current River

Our campsite the first night

After we finished fishing that spot it was getting late in the afternoon and time to start looking for a campsite. We probably paddled 3-4 miles until we found the perfect site. Nine times out of ten we find a suitable site, wake up the next morning and paddle, and there will be a much better site just around the bend from where we camped. Not this time though. This was a large, flat gravel bar directly across from a bluff. We unpacked the boats and set up camp in the fading light. This time we brought a small charcoal grill to cook dinner on. After dinner we built a small camp fire in the grill. It was nice to have a fire and it kept us just warm enough. We spent most of the evening stargazing. Since Jake and Aaron both live in cities, they don’t get to see the stars very often. Still, the sky over the Current is not as spectacular as it is over the Eleven Point. Eventually we put out the fire and all headed to bed. The next morning DW and I woke up and the entire river valley was full of thick fog. We couldn’t see much past the tent. Within minutes the sun started to rise and a gentle breeze blew the fog away entirely. Soon Aaron and Jake awoke and we started repacking and ate breakfast. Aaron got to experience pooping in the woods for the first time. Congratulations to him! It sure beats a port-a-potty on the second day of a music festival.

Current River

DW mans the gear barge

Current River

Blue Heron

Current River

Current River

Aaron & DW jumping off a rock

Current River

Current River

Our second day was spent mostly fishing and swimming. We finally got to use the snorkel I bought back in July. It’s been so long since I’ve used a snorkel, it was difficult to remember to breathe while my face was underwater! We all caught some more fish, but nothing worth keeping. Lots of tiny smallmouth bass, some sunfish and goggle eye. We didn’t see hardly any paddlers until we neared Van Buren. There aren’t any outfitters between Two Rivers and Van Buren and anyone we did see was camping overnight like us. We passed Waymeyer access around 5pm and started to look for a gravel bar to camp. Many of the good spots were already taken by other paddlers or people with motor boats. I found one gravel bar that was pretty flat, but the rocks were kind of big. DW thought we could do better, so we kept going. Soon we were nearly in Van Buren, where most of the river bank is private property. I couldn’t believe how many new houses had been built since we last paddled this stretch 5 or 6 years ago. The recession definitely hasn’t hurt the vacation home industry in Van Buren! Eventually we found an island with a flat gravel bar that was secluded from the houses on one side. We took it because there wasn’t going to be anything better! Everyone unpacked their gear and set up camp. As DW and I set up our tent one of the poles cracked. Duct tape to the rescue! We ordered new poles from Eureka when we got home. Eureka has good customer service and will usually replace broken parts, but you have to send the whole tent back to them and it can take almost a month to complete the process. We just don’t have time for that. There is too much camping in the next month to wait!

As we were settling in to camp and getting ready for dinner someone upriver started setting off large fireworks. We walked to the edge of the gravel bar to get a better view. It was a nice show. I guess the fire ban doesn’t apply to them! I think those were the only fireworks I’ve seen this year, since most of the 4th of July festivities were cancelled due to drought. After the show ended we cooked up some bratwurst and chicken and ate dinner around the fire. DW, Jake and Aaron shotgunned some beer for some nostalgic male bonding. It was hilarious to watch. Eventually Aaron and I wandered off to our tents and Jake stayed up to watch DW fall asleep in his chair. The next morning we cooked up some eggs and bacon, packed the boats and drifted downriver toward Van Buren.

Current River

The bridge at Van Buren

Current River

Current River

Jake, DW & Aaron

There are some really deep holes full of big fish right before you get to town. We spent a lot of time fishing there, though we didn’t catch any of those big fish. Suddenly the bright, sunny day clouded over and thunder boomed in the distance. We started to paddle a little more earnestly. By the time we reached the bridge it had started to sprinkle. It rained just enough to make me put on my rain jacket and kayak skirt. Of course as soon as I did, it stopped raining. The larger thunder storms passed to the North of us. DW and I have never floated past Van Buren before. Taking out at Big Spring is only an extra 5 miles downriver. As soon as we got out of town the landscape reverted to wilderness pretty quickly. It is a very pretty section of river and we’re thinking about doing a trip from Van Buren to Doniphan sometime in the future.

Current River

Old bridge pillars at Big Spring Park

Current River

Jake, Aaron, Me & DW at Big Spring take out

Current River, Big Spring

Big Spring

We spent the rest of the trip lazily paddling and fishing. We saw 3 deer crashing through the underbrush on a gravel bar. Soon the take out appeared before us and our trip was at an end. We packed all the gear into the Subaru as the rain started to fall just a little bit. After we were packed we drove to check out the spring the park is named for. Big Spring is one of the 3 largest springs in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It is also the second largest tributary into the Current River. It is a beautiful spot to visit and a really nice park as well. After we checked it out the rain stopped again and we headed over to Stray Dog Pizza & BBQ in Van Buren for a late lunch. We ordered a pulled pork pizza with pineapple and jalapenos as well as some wings and a “dog pile”. A dog pile contains pinto beans, pulled pork, jalapenos and cheese sauce piled on top of corn chips. Delicious! It was a lot of food but we managed to eat all of it, somehow. DW and I didn’t eat dinner that night since we were so full! We drove back to Powder Mill to drop Jake at his truck and then headed home. We had to get up at 4:30 the next morning to get Aaron on his early morning flight back to New York. It was a great trip with great friends. We all had a blast and can’t wait to do it again!

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Northern Water Snake, 3 Deer.

Float #44: Current River

3 Aug

Powder Mill to Two Rivers (and Back)

Current River
Shannon County, Missouri
Wednesday, July 4
13 miles

We desperately wanted to go floating in some really cold water on the 4th. All the rivers close to our house are pretty warm in midsummer, so we decided to drive 2 hours south to the Current. None of our floating crew wanted to float that day and we didn’t want to spend money on a shuttle, so we opted to paddle upriver and back. We’ve been doing a lot of upriver paddling on the Meramec near our house. It’s not too difficult if you are a strong paddler and can read water fairly well. Of course there are always some spots that are too shallow and fast to paddle up. A rope tied to the front handle of the kayak makes it easy to pull the boat behind you and walk up the riffles. Then you just have to navigate the uneven footing and slippery rocks and hope you don’t slip and fall!

We left our house around 7:30 and drove to Powder Mill access on the middle Current. Powder Mill is also known as Owl’s Bend. This bend of the river has long been a favorite with owls. Camping here overnight can be noisy with all the hooting. We unloaded and started paddling around 10. As soon as we passed the Hwy. 106 bridge we had to stop for a swim. The first plunge into the cold, clear water made the drive totally worth it!

Current River

Powder Mill access

Current River

There were hundreds of fat dragonflies flying all over the place. You can see one of them in the left corner of the first photo. They don’t bother us much, but there’s always one hitching a ride on the nose of my boat. Anything is better than horseflies! Thankfully those haven’t been too bad this year.

The middle Current has lots of long, slow pools which are easy to paddle up. The shallow and fast parts however, are much longer and a little faster than on the Meramec. This was definitely harder work to get upriver, but still very enjoyable. The river was surprisingly quiet for a holiday. I don’t think there are any outfitters between Two Rivers and Van Buren, so that cuts down on the amount of people. We saw a couple of canoes and some people barbecuing on the gravel bars, but we mostly had the river to ourselves.

Current River

Current River

We didn’t quite make it all the way to Two Rivers. About a mile away we started to get a little tired and it was almost 3pm, so we were running out of time. We turned around and floated back to Powder Mill, stopping to swim several times along the way. There were a lot of snakes swimming across the water. We rarely got close enough to properly identify them. I also saw a couple of deer along the bank and the usual assortment of water birds.

Current River

Hwy. 106 Bridge at Powder Mill

We arrived back at Powder Mill around 5:30, packed up and drove the two hours back home. It was one of the best 4th of July holidays I’ve had. And that cold water was really nice! The next day at work, my arms felt like wet noodles from all the paddling, but it was a lot of fun.

Critter Count: Blue Herons, Green Herons, Ducks, Snakes, 2 Deer

Foat #24 & 25: Current River

12 Oct

Cedar Grove to Two Rivers

Current River
Shannon County, Missouri
Wednesday, September 28 – Thursday, September 29
44 Miles

In celebration of our wedding anniversary, DW and I completed our first overnight kayak trip. After all, what is more romantic than sleeping on a gravel bar? We had spent the previous weekend dragging out all our backpacking gear, which hadn’t been used in almost 6 years, sorting and packing it all into small dry bags. We packed the boats and did a test run on the Meramec near home. Everything seemed to fit well and the boats were well balanced, so we unpacked it all into the car and headed down to the Current River for our first overnight trip with kayaks. We hadn’t floated the Current in nearly 2 years. Back when we only had the canoe we had done a couple week-long trips down to Van Buren, so we are pretty familiar with the Current when it comes to overnight trips. We scheduled a car shuttle from the outfitter at Two Rivers. It was a little pricey, but the drive from Cedar Grove to the take out is over an hour long. Once we got to the access we repacked everything in the kayaks.

DW took the red Perception kayak instead of his regular blue kayak. His blue Perception Montour is very narrow and can’t hold much. The red Perception Prodigy is very wide and there is plenty of room in the front and back to stuff a bunch of gear. My Dagger Axis 10.5 turned out to be nearly perfect for overnight packing. There was plenty of room in the front to slide long things (extra paddle, camp seat and several small bags) and the sealed hull held a lot more than I thought it would. I did have to be careful to balance the front and back of the boat so both ends turned at the same rate. Otherwise the front would turn quickly while the back just sat there. We also bought a bunch more small fabric dry bags. The regular vinyl dry bags are hard to stuff into small spaces (too much friction against the plastic boat) and the fabric ones work well as long as you don’t submerge them in water for a long time.

current river, kayak overnight

All our gear before packing it in the boats

current river, cedar grove

Packed boats ready to launch at Cedar Grove

The biggest hurdle to overnight kayaking is alcohol. You really can’t pack much beer on a kayak and drinking hard alcohol all day can turn into a kayak-flipping disaster. We decided two days at a time was feasible to carry beer. If we did more than two days we would carry hard alcohol and soda and just not drink as much and start drinking late in the day. Of course you could always decided to not drink at all, but that would eliminate most of the challenge!

We launched our boats from Cedar Grove at 11am on Wednesday morning. It was a little later than we wanted to start, but still feasible to make it to our halfway point, Pulltite Spring 18 miles downriver. When we tested our boats at home we did not have all the food & beer packed, so the kayaks were a little more heavy than we anticipated. So now we’re paddling heavy boats 18 miles in 7 hours. Better paddle hard!

current river

current river, medlock spring

Medlock Spring spills from the rocks

medlock spring, current river

Medlock Spring

Our first stop was at Medlock Spring. Medlock is a small spring that gushes from tiny opening in the rocks and tumbles down to the river. There is also a cave up above the spring opening, but we did not explore as we had 16 miles left to paddle.

Two miles down from Medlock is Welch Spring. Welch Spring is in the top 10 of Missouri’s largest springs and has a powerful flow. The spring gushes out of a cave opening and runs into the river with such force that it overtakes the current of the stream. Welch spring was originally homesteaded in 1855 by Thomas Welch, who then ran a grist mill on the spring until the turn of the 20th century. Then it was bought by Dr. Diehl in 1913. Dr. Diehl built a hospital over an opening in the cave and planned to attract patients suffering from breathing ailments to the healing spring waters and cave vapors. His project never really took off as the roads in the Ozarks were little more than rough trails at the time and it was hard to attract patients to the middle of nowhere. The walls of the hospital building still stand at the edge of the spring. It’s neat to wander around the building and imagine what it would have been like to be treated for consumption in the middle of the wilderness in 1915.

current river, welch spring

Welch Spring

current river, welch spring

Welch Spring viewed from the river

current river

Three miles down from Welch is Akers Ferry. This is the last operational ferry in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. There is also an access and camp store on the left side of the river. The ferry runs during daylight hours and is only $4 per vehicle to cross. It has been in operation for over 50 years but I have only seen it running once so I don’t think it gets too much traffic these days.

current river, akers ferry

Akers Ferry

current river, akers ferry

The river ferry at Akers

current river, blue heron

current river

current river

After Akers we stopped for a short lunch break and a swim. It was just barely warm enough to get in the water without being uncomfortable. This would be my first and last swim of the entire trip as the rest of the week was cooler and the water didn’t get any warmer! After lunch we continued our mad paddle to the halfway point. At one point we saw a river otter crossing the water with a large crawdad in its mouth. You don’t see too many otters on the river. They are pretty reclusive and don’t come out much around humans, so it’s really cool to see one on a quiet day.

current river

current river, cave spring

DW paddles into Cave Spring

current river, cave spring

Cave Spring

Five miles upriver from Pulltite is Cave Spring. This cave is in a bluff on the river bank so you can paddle into it. The water at the back of the cave is 120 ft. deep and comes from nearby Devil’s Well. Devil’s Well is a deep, water-filled sinkhole about a mile away from the cave. It’s pretty neat as far as sinkholes go and is worth a visit if you’re in the area.

current river

current river, pulltite

Pulltite access

current river, pulltite spring

The trail to Pulltite Spring

current river, pulltite spring

The cabin at Pulltite Spring

current river, pulltite spring

Inside the cabin

current river, pulltite spring

Pulltite Spring

Around 4:30 we finally passed Pulltite access. We stopped at the spring, which is across the river and 3/4 mile down from the access. Pulltite is one of our favorite areas on the Current. The campground isn’t very big and can get pretty crowded in the summer, but if you’re lucky enough to camp there in the off season its peaceful and picturesque. There are numerous campsites along the river and a short hiking trail goes along the stream at the back of the campground. Pulltite Spring is one of the most beautiful springs in the area. A short trail leads along the spring branch from the river. Right before the spring hole is an old cabin built in 1913 by the spring’s owners. The cabin is built in the French style with logs placed upright to avoid having to notch them. My favorite thing about the cabin is the large fireplace in the center of the room; it looks so cozy! Just up the trail from the cabin is the spring. Pulltite, like most Ozark springs, was once the site of a grist mill. The story is that Pulltite got its name because the horses had to pull tight to haul the grain up the steep mountain from the valley floor. The wagon drivers then had to brake the back wheels with a log and pull tight on the reins to keep the wagon from hurtling down the mountain. Pulltite Spring used to have 3 dams to run the mill, but they were all dismantled around the turn of the 20th century when the mill stopped production.

Pulltite Spring was our actual half way point. After we explored the spring we got back in the boats and started looking for a good gravel bar to camp. It seems that everyone floating that day was camping on the river overnight. We passed two or three good sites that were already occupied. DW and I always joke that the perfect camping spot is just around the bend from wherever we decide to stop for the night. It seems we always get on the river in the morning, paddle around the bend and there is a large gravel bar across from a towering bluff that looks much nicer than where we just came from. Since we can’t carry fire wood on a kayak a site with ample access to dead wood was a bonus. We kept paddling, looking for the perfect spot. Right around dusk we saw a spot just down from a bluff that had a large stack of dead wood from the previous occupants. We decided we weren’t going to get anything better this close to dark so we unpacked the boats and set up camp. DW got the fire started and I set up the tent. Then we got out our fancy camp chairs (legless so they take up little room and give plenty of opportunity to commune with creepy crawlers), cooked dinner on our backpacking stove and settled in for the night.

current river

The bluff upriver from camp

current river

DW paddles under a precarious tree

current river, sinking creek

Sinking Creek

current river

The night passed uneventfully and we woke up the next morning, ate cold cereal, put on our cold float clothes and packed camp back into the boats. We were on the river by 9am. It’s lucky we stopped for the night where we did because we did not see another suitable gravel bar for miles. It would have been past dark by the time we found another campsite! The first landmark we passed was Sinking Creek on the left side of the river. There is a conservation area campground here and it looks like it has been improved since the last time we were in the area. Sinking Creek is popular in the summer as it is cheaper than the state parks or national forest campgrounds along the river.

current river, hwy. 19 bridge, round spring

Hwy. 19 bridge at Round Spring

current river, round spring

Round Spring State Park

current river, round spring

Round Spring

current river

Deer graze on the river bank

A few miles down from Sinking Creek is Round Spring. Round Spring is a nearly perfect circular depression in the hill with an average flow of 26 million gallons per day. Local legend says that an angry Indian chief stomped the ground until the hollow formed and filled with water. Round Spring was one of Missouri’s first state parks. Even though it is still referred to as a state park, round spring was incorporated into the National Park system as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in the 1960s.

current river

current river

current river

current river, bald eagle

A Bald Eagle above the bluff

current river, two rivers

Two Rivers

The remainder of the day went by quickly and without much excitement. We did see a couple of deer grazing on the river bank and a bunch of bald eagles flying over the bluffs. We stopped for lunch at a random picnic table on a large gravel bar. It was an obvious fish gigging access as the table was littered with fish scales. We saw few people on the river and those we did see were all camping overnight. I guess the weekday is for overnight floaters! We reached Two Rivers, where the Jack’s Fork enters the Current, around 4pm. We unpacked the boats, loaded up and drove for about an hour to the Eleven Point to continue our next two days of floating.

Critter Count: Turtles, Blue Herons, Green Herons, Kingfishers, Ducks, 1 Hawk, 4 Bald Eagles, 2 Deer, 1 River Otter with Crawdad Lunch Special